Left, Right and Centre (1959)
This comedy stars Ian Carmichael as Robert Wilcot, a zoologist and explorer turned TV personality, who has decided to run for Parliament. Wilcot will stand as the Conservative Party candidate for the Parliamentary constituency of Earndale. The area was his childhood home and the location of Wilcot Priory, the family seat and current residence of his uncle, Lord Wilcot (Alastair Sim).
On the train up to Earnley, the biggest town in the area, Wilcot meets an attractive young woman, Stella (Patricia Bredin). They get along famously and, hoping to impress her, he tells her of his plans to become the area's new Member of Parliament.
|Ian Carmichael as Robert Wilcot|
|Harding-Pratt (Richard Wattis), Wilcot and Annabel (Moyra Fraser)|
Frank Launder took the lead on the St. Trinian's series and was the one more usually associated with comedy. Sidney Gilliat often directed the pair's dramas and thrillers, like Green for Danger (1946) and State Secret (1950). Here, though, he turned to comedy and showed a similar talent for the genre as Launder.
Launder and Gilliat's comedy films weren't usually that satirical, but Left, Right and Centre, with its political comedy, sees Gilliat encroach onto the territory of the pair's contemporary rivals John and Roy Boulting.
|Alastair Sim takes a supporting role, but gets co-star billing|
|Richard Wattis as Harding-Pratt|
In addition to its digs at the political parties, the film also takes pot shots at pompous TV personalities and the turning of Britain's stately homes into tourist attractions. When Carmichael as Wilcot arrives at Wilcot Priory, he finds that he now has to go through a turnstile and fight his way through the crowds of daytrippers, slot machines and amusement arcades first, as his uncle has turned his ancestral home into a money-making enterprise.
Wilcot discovers that it was his uncle who originally suggested him as a Parliamentary candidate, in order to boost interest in the family seat at Wilcot Priory. Lord Wilcot goes further, hosting a political hustings event at the Priory and using it as an excuse to bring in yet more visitors, turning his nephew's candidature and the election campaign into part of his booming business enterprise.
|Wilcot discovers some of the changes at Wilcot Priory|
Huge bills for inheritance taxes saw many of Britain's stately homes come under threat in the 1950s, with some passed onto the National Trust in deals to avoid having to pay, and others opened up as tourist attractions. So Lord Wilcot's opening of Wilcot Priory to coach loads of visitors is quite plausible, and the bouncy castles and slot machines not that much of an exaggeration.
The panel game What on Earth Was That? is hosted by Eamonn Andrews, a real TV personality of the time, best known for presenting the British version of This is Your Life. The panel includes Gilbert Harding, a big television star of the 1950s, known especially for his irascible appearances on What's My Line? The film shows Wilcot and Harding having to deal with hordes of autograph-seeking young women when they leave the studio, although it's doubtful if Gilbert Harding really had to fight off that many young women in real life.
|Anthony Sharp and Richard Wattis as local Conservatives|
|Moyra Fraser as the adoring Annabel|
|Eric Barker as Labour's Bert Glimmer|
The two arrange to have their candidates' current partners brought up to Earnley. This means not only the airheaded Annabel, but also Stella Stoker's boyfriend Bill. The usually thoughtful Jack Hedley is unusually cast here as Bill Hemingway, a body builder and physical trainer who is Stella's would-be fiancé.
|Advertising works: Carmichael and Wattis|
with Labour's election poster
|British poster for Left, Right and Centre|
Left, Right and Centre
Screenplay Sidney Gilliat, story Sidney Gilliat, Val Valentine Producers Sidney Gilliat, Frank Launder Cinematography Gerald Gibbs Art director John Box Editor Gerry Hambling Music Humphrey Searle Costume designer Anthony Mendleson